Healthcare administration in the United States, particularly in the senior ranks, has been a male-dominated field for decades. But the demand for capable healthcare administrators is as high now as ever. Women make up more than half of the U.S. population and approximately three quarters of the healthcare workforce. They are obtaining college and graduate degrees at higher rates than men, making women a large and qualified talent pool from which to draw healthcare leaders.
Organizations that can attract and retain talented women executives have a competitive advantage over their peers. Data from various studies show organizations with women in senior leadership roles and on the board perform better financially. Having senior leadership and board membership reflect the community served is one of the three recommended steps toward eliminating healthcare disparities and improving quality of care. With women being both the major users of healthcare and often the healthcare decision makers for their families, it is important that organizations have leadership that reflects this reality. Further, the merging of healthcare providers into larger systems occurring today makes the leadership traits of emotional intelligence, cooperation, and the abilities to establish trust and empower others even more important, and many women excel in these areas.
Being an attractive workplace for capable women leaders is also a sustainability strategy for healthcare organizations. The up-and-coming generation of healthcare executives, in general, expects a greater degree of gender equity both at home and in the workplace and chooses workplaces accordingly.
There is no doubt it is far more common now than it was 20 years ago for women to occupy senior leadership positions in U.S. healthcare. However, women still tend to be hired into more junior positions than their male counterparts, be paid less and be less likely to be promoted into the most senior positions, according to recent research.
A special report published in the Journal of Healthcare Management presents results from a survey conducted by ACHE in 2018 comparing career attainments and attitudes of women and men healthcare executives, along with comparative data from earlier surveys. Here are some highlights from that report.
Overall Job Satisfaction: A high proportion of both men and women healthcare executives in the study reported being satisfied (i.e., satisfied or very satisfied) overall with their position. These proportions were 87% among men and 81% among women. The 2018 study was the first time the proportion of women executives reporting overall satisfaction with their current position was significantly lower than that of men.
Satisfaction With Compensation: When asked to consider their employment history over the past five years, 42% of women respondents said they failed to receive fair compensation due to gender, as opposed to 2% of men. This difference is significant. Regarding current employment, women in the 2018 study were also less satisfied than men with their compensation compared with others in the organization at their same level. The proportion of men satisfied or very satisfied with their compensation was 81%, while it was lower among women at 71%.
Some of the lack of satisfaction on the part of women executives in the study about their compensation is warranted. As has been reported in Healthcare Executive, women responding to the 2018 study earned a median salary that was 16% less than their male counterparts in 2017. Having attained approximately equal levels of education and experience, in 2017, women healthcare executives earned a median salary of about $155,200, and men earned a median salary of about $183,700.
Hiring, Evaluation and Promotion: Only small percentages of men or women in the 2018 survey felt they had failed to be hired over the past five years because of gender. However, the proportion of women who said this, 9%, was significantly higher than the 3% of men who did. Similarly, the 17% of women respondents who felt they had failed to be promoted in the past five years because of gender was significantly higher than the 4% of men who said this had been the case. It is worth noting that the proportion of women who felt they had missed out on promotions because of gender has decreased somewhat over time.
Data from the 2018 survey of men and women members of ACHE indicate women healthcare executives with five to 20 years of experience in the field are significantly less likely than their male peers to perceive their employers as gender-neutral regarding key employment factors such as hiring, promotion, evaluation and compensation. Healthcare organizations looking to attract and retain talented women executives need to take a hard look at their practices and policies in these areas.
Read the full special report here.